Moderately Relevant Tangent #189 – A brief history of fashion. (Note the pun)
We fur-challenged monkeys, with our superior opposable thumbs, designed clothes to keep our inferior weak bodies from freezing. Fat stores are reserves in case of future hunger, also working as a level of insulation to protect our organs from the harsh weather. These things kept our species alive through the ice age, when, as the title suggests, it was rather frosty, and food was scarce. (Think squirrel and nuts from “Ice Age”. It’s almost worth watching the movie just to see his sporadic scenes.)
Without clothes and fat stores humans would not have survived nature’s onslaught. I only need draw your attention to one thing to make this obvious – the phallus. It protrudes from the body (thereby leaving it vulnerable to the cold, much unlike the female ovaries which are nestled comfortably in between other organs) and emits fluids. (In freezing weather, emitting fluids is just about the worst thing you can do.) A penis, uncovered and unwarmed in freezing weather, is not only likely to freeze off entirely, it is guaranteed not to perform its function of spreading the seed that its accompanying testicles manufacture. Without clothing, penises would have been extinct, which unfortunately has negative consequences for the reproduction and ensuing survival of our species. Sure, the women would have tried to woo mammoths and other hairier creatures with working genitalia, however the success rate of the courtship would have been low, and the results of breeding frightening. It is obvious we owe a lot to clothes, and fat, and penises, for ensuring that we are alive today. However, at some point in history, things took a turn for the worst. As the weather improved, clothes were no longer always a necessity.
After wearing them 24/7 for such a long time (roughly from when they were invented till the ice melted and the sun came out – say, 1.8 million years), it is likely that we were shocked and confused by the hideous new body parts that were openly exhibited in this pleasant weather. We decided that the most offensive of these body parts should be covered despite the weather – the body parts that make us act frisky and irrational, the infamous genitalia. Soon more and more body parts moved into the category of “publicly inappropriate”, as we realized how hideous we really are. In some countries, even today, only eyes are permissible, and I say hooray. I am sick of seeing a sea of hideously deformed faces every time I leave the house, with their stupid expressions and offensive features….
Back to the point, it became necessary to cover more and more of our bodies when leaving the house/cave/igloo/hut, depending on what era this happened in and where – it’s irrelevant. Shelters were left and body parts needed to be covered from the seedy eyes of the public. A notion of “shame” of one’s body developed, as did a family of silent rules on how to be “proper” in the attire you cover your various bits with. Certain people began creating variations on the “loin cloth”, “toga”, “poncho” and “sack” (with holes), and so clothes became more fitting to our bodies. Fat stores remained the same – enough to survive a shortage of food, but not enough to hinder mobility. Then the notion of “beauty” arrived. It brought with it thousands of paintings of the naked human form. The models look grossly overweight by our standards, but in their day the excess fat was a sign of wealth, so they don’t mind being labeled fatties. In their era, they were beauty personified. With beauty came the desire to make one’s garments as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Society was at a stage when things could be bartered for, and those inclined to needlework began trading their creations for bread, Bibles and other such things. Thus began what is now thousands of third world children in factories making us our Nikes.
Somewhere in between the bartering and the factories, clothes became a means of self expression, styles bred into billions of designs, and “fashion” developed, bringing with it hundreds of crummy magazines on the subject. Clothes became painfully important parts of our lives, instead of mere providers of warmth and privacy for our fun bits. Fat stores stopped correlating with wealth and began symbolizing laziness, bad health, or junk food addictions; what began as mankind’s savior now devours him. Our cover and protection became our obsession with appearances, an addiction that spans the course of our lives, a worry that always lingers in the back of the mind – self-image. We seek approval of our appearance so that we may silence the voice that whispers inadequacy every time we encounter a reflective surface.
We* fish for compliments from the unwitting people who surround us, so we loudly insult ourselves, all the while hoping for someone to disagree. When others are forced into complimenting the fisher, their behaviour of self-abuse is reinforced by the approval of others, beginning a fishing trip that is likely to last their entire lives. What can you do to stop the cycle of stupidity that threatens to envelop us all? It’s simple. And you get to be a jerk, which is a bonus. Keep all the fish, don’t let anyone force compliments out of you unless you openly desire to dish them out. Your fish will be a delicacy in the sea of pleasantries, and your opinions will hold more value than those who are more frivolous with their compliment dealings. The fisher may become aware of their pathetic behaviour when you react in a way they did not predict – i.e. Admit that, hey, their butt is pretty colossal. Proceed to thank them for bringing it to your attention, and assure that you will let others know so they too can see the magnitude of said hide. They may be offended at first, which means that you have successfully Jerked it up a Notch. With time and frequent mockery, they will either poison you or cease fishing in your lake because they know compliments don’t swim there. Perhaps they will change careers altogether, and realise that no matter how many compliments they receive; it will never change the negative perceptions they have of themselves. Perhaps they will cease whining about their mongoloid body parts and actually work to mold them.,or simply tweak their twisted perspectives. You just never know the positive changes you can create by disregarding people’s feelings and being a Jerk. If you continue handing them the fish they will continue abusing themselves, plus you will be forced to lie through your teeth every time. And for what? A complement to an approval addict is nothing, it will satisfy them for a mere number of minutes. Teach them that they need not be fishing, and they’re set for life.
So there you have it, a brief history of fashion & body image (based on distant memories of information long forgotten and senseless speculations), the ensuing problems and my solutions, which permit you to be a Jerk and still feel like you’ve achieved something. Down with compliments!
– I removed this monument to the futility of human endeavor from a huge rant about the misuse of language (Previous entry. Not remembering having written it, I found it fascinating.). Fishing for compliments was one of the misuses… Historical content is approximated and exaggerated courtesy of Captain Pinhead.
* By we I mean Humans – I don’t do this, obviously, I’m just trying to make you feel involved here.
© 2006 Captain Pinhead
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